Oia is sold

It’s a little bittersweet, but as of today (November 23, 2012) Oia is sold to her new owners, Victor and Svetlana, who I hear are aboard in the B&V yard, getting situated, and learning about their new boat.

Congratulations to them!

It has truly been a wonderful adventure to own Oia for the last few years.  It hasn’t been all that long, but I hope I’ve at least left her in better shape than I found her, and I know I’ve learned a lot from the experience.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Fair winds and following seas.


Filed under general, photos, purchase

Oia is for sale sold

UPDATE: As of November 23, 2012, Oia is sold to Victor and Svetlana, who are aboard and happy with their new boat!  Congratulations and fair winds!

After a fair bit of thought, and lots of hemming and hawing, I have finally decided to put Oia on the market.  Details are here.

I love this boat, but it is too great of a boat to sit unused in Malaysia while I am halfway around the world — and all indications are I will remain halfway around the world for the foreseeable future.  Oia belongs in the ocean, in the hands of an owner ready for real adventure, living aboard, or even just occasional cruising.

So, see the “for sale” page for details, and if you’re interested in this lovely and rare boat, with a superb reputation, get in touch with me.  She’s all ready to cruise around the world.

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After a long time, a visit to the boatyard

It’s been a long time, but Oia still exists, of course.  We’ve been living in NYC (and Singapore — visa issues, long story) since early 2012 and Oia has, sadly, moved to the back burner.  She’s spent the year slowly undergoing refit in the B&V yard in Langkawi, with remote guidance from me, but until a few weeks ago I hadn’t actually been to Langkawi to see the boat since February.  I just returned to NYC after spending about five weeks in Singapore with Charlene, and while I was there we took a quick six day trip up to visit the boat, see how things are going, clean her up a bit, do a few little projects, and gather some stuff to bring home.

Over the last few months it’s become clear we’re going to be in NYC for the foreseeable future, and I’m not going to have the kind of free time I’d need to bring Oia here myself.  I got some quotes from delivery captains, and some other quotes from shipping companies, trying to find some way to bring her to NYC.  Unfortunately, getting a boat (literally) halfway around the world is a costly proposition and I haven’t been able to find any reasonable options.  We’ve decided that rather than leave the boat languishing indefinitely in a boatyard in Malaysia, we should put her on the market.  A very difficult decision, but certainly the most rational one.  I’ll probably make a “boat for sale” post shortly.  I did take some time to meet with some brokers while we were in Langkawi, and did some other pre-sale prep, mainly cleaning the boat up and taking a bunch of glamour shots.  Over the last couple weeks I’ve put together a pretty detailed dossier for the boat, and it will be listed with the brokers soon.

All that aside, a fair bit of work has been done on the boat since I was last in Langkawi, although I’ve been disappointed at the pace — there are still a number of (mostly small) jobs to be done before she can go back in the water.  I’m going to get on B&V’s case more aggressively over the next month or two to wrap all that stuff up so she’s ready to launch.  Seems likely the boat will show better to potential buyers if it’s in the water, but we’ll see how she does while she’s in the yard for now.

Anyway, one of the jobs the yard did was to revarnish all the brightwork on deck.  This is most noticeable on the nice teak caprail around the gunwhale.  It looks incredibly nice:

Here’s a closeup:

Very happy with how that turned out.  The new dodger forward-facing portlights were installed with 12mm polycarbonate, replacing the tiny old “tank windows” I used to have to stand on tiptoe and squint to see through.  Cosmetically the yard didn’t do a super job of installing the glass, but it’s not terrible, and functionally these windows are a vast improvement over the old ones:

Here’s the view from inside the cockpit — lots more visibility:

A bit of work got done in the engine compartment.  Most importantly, I had the yard fabricate me a new waterlock box for the engine exhaust.  Here it is:

This is basically just a fiberglass enclosure that acts to prevent water from flooding the engine via the exhaust outlet.  Pretty surprising there was never one in the boat previously, but with a new engine, I didn’t want to take any risks and wanted a proper exhaust system.  The only annoyance with the waterlock was that it required a bit of adjustment to the exhaust pipe on the engine.

I also replaced the old through-hull speed log paddle sensor with a small through-hull and seacock for use with the watermaker (and maybe the galley foot pump, via a couple of Y-valves):

The speed log was never used and unless you’re racing I think you can usually get by pretty well with speed over ground from GPS anyway.  The new seacock was only loosely installed when I arrived.  I used some teflon tape and hand tightened it, but in retrospect it probably needs some pipe dope as well, so I’ll need to do that (or have the yard do it) before the boat goes in the water.  There’s no plumbing to the new seacock for now, and no real immediate need for it, but while the boat was hauled it seemed like a good idea to make the swap.

The new custom boarding ladder is on the boat, but still needs some tweaks to be properly mounted and usable.  I’d still like to put some teak steps on the crossbars, too.

The real big job that was done while I was away was an overhaul of the rig.  The yard pulled the mast down, removed the whole furled mainsail setup, and (mostly) replaced it with the necessary setup for a slab reefed mainsail.  There’s still a little more work left to be done that they’re working on now: reinstalling lower portions of the main and trysail tracks, and installing some reefing hardware.  I was pretty happy with how everything turned out so far.

The gooseneck was very elongated for purposes of the furling setup; they cut it down but reused the same attachment points:

Here’s the mast below the gooseneck.  The mast wiring still needs to be reattached, and I didn’t have time while I was there, so I’ll have to leave that to the yard.  Most of the halyards are all in place, but the topping lift got removed for some reason.  I wasn’t too inclined to climb the mast since the backstay is off for the Travelift, so the topping lift will have to be re-run some other time.

While the mast was down, I had it painted.  It made a huge difference.  Previously, the mast and boom were chalky and left a residue behind every time I touched them.  Now they’re shiny, just like the hull and deck — new paint jobs all around.  The yard was pretty thorough with their mast painting, and the spreaders also look shiny and new:

Here’s a closer vew up near the radar, where the sail track is finally exposed after being rendered useless by the furled sail for so long.  I didn’t get to raise the slab reefed sail while I was there (a little more hardware still needs to be installed) but I’m 100% sure this is a better solution than the furled setup.  In this photo, the track on the left is for the mainsail, and the one on the right is for the storm trysail:

When I arrived, the newly painted boom was propped up on the ground.  I got some help getting it up on deck and got it in place:

Here’s the joint at the gooseneck with the boom installed:

The main change to the boom was that the external sail track on which the clew of the furled sail slid was removed, along with all the sealant that had been filled into the groove on the boom.  The foot of the mainsail will now be fully attached to the boom by sliding in the groove.

Here’s another view of the whole foredeck, all cleaned off for some broker photos:

Some other random stuff that was done either before or while I was at the yard:

  • New cutless (prop shaft) bearing was installed
  • A new custom bearing for the rudder stock is currently being fabricated
  • The gasket on the big hatch in the center of the dodger was replaced since it was leaking
  • The raw water drain has been removed from the outlet that drains onto the deck, but hasn’t yet been teed into one of the cockpit drains.  That’s the eventual objective though, since it keeps hot salt water off the deck but keeps the drain safe from submersion.
  • I installed a new tube for the bilge pump pressure switch
  • A new bimini frame is all fabricated, but it’s not installed awaiting the canvas work
  • Stanchions were re-bedded everywhere and are now very solid

I spent a lot of time cleaning things up, taking photos, and packing up stuff I really wanted to keep.  I wasn’t able to bring everything, unfortunately — and there’s some chance I won’t be able to make it back to the boat before it’s sold.  C’est la vie.

When I left the boat, I made sure the deck was completely tarped-over — and then, on the advice of the yard owner, made sure the tarps were covered too, with some black netting type stuff that supposedly slows down the inevitable deterioration of the tarps in the tropical sun:

It was certainly a bit sad to leave Oia this time, since I don’t know when or if I’ll get back to see her again.  She’ll be on the market soon, but I’ll be continuing to shepherd along the last few jobs that need to get finished before she can go back in the water.

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Interview on Channel News Asia

Just before we flew to NYC back in early February, Charlene and I were interviewed — along with another couple in One 15 Marina — by a Channel News Asia property program called SPEED about living aboard in Singapore.  Wayne kindly digitized the program for me when it aired — here it is:


Filed under advice, liveaboard, videos

Lowrance HDS USR4 in gpsbabel

I’m still alive!

I mentioned previously that I’d found a script from someone implementing a conversion to GPX from the new-ish Lowrance USR4 format, from their HDS chartplotters, of which I have one.  I also mentioned I might try adding support for USR4 to gpsbabel, the tool of record for converting GPS data between formats.

Well, I did that sometime back in January, including support for both reading from and writing to USR4, and the code has finally made its way into gpsbabel’s trunk.  So those who are interested can svn checkout and build gpsbabel themselves for now; or just wait for the next release which it seems will be coming shortly.

More updates pending, but that’s all for now!

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Good and bad news; boatyard progress; etc

First things first.  The bad news: our cruising plans, which had been set to begin right around now, have been indefinitely postponed.  The good news: they were postponed because I accepted an offer to continue at Voxel in New York, which in a twist of fate was bought by Internap a month ago and now needs someone to take charge of integrating the two companies’ technology.  Probably I should have known better than to think I could sail away easily.  Plus, even if the Voxel offer hadn’t appeared, I also had another amazing offer-you-cannot-refuse pop up in San Fransisco around the same time, so the cards, as it turned out, were pretty well stacked against us going sailing.

The plan for now is to leave the boat in the yard in Langkawi.  Everything takes longer than expected, so there is still plenty of work to be done; and I’ve given them some more jobs to do with the extra time.  Beyond that, a lot of options are on the table.  I’ve had some initial conversations with a couple of delivery captains, and I’m seeking quotes from shipping companies too.  It may in the end prove that the rational decision is to sell the boat here, or at least nearer by, and buy a new one in the US; but then, not much about boats is rational, so we’ll see.  What I do want to avoid is letting the boat languish unused in Malaysia indefinitely.

We’re flying to NYC tonight.  I spent most of last week in Langkawi getting the boat tidied up for an extended absence and going over what’s been done and what’s left to do with Barry, the owner of the yard.

It had been a while since I was last there, but most of that time was taken up with painting the deck — a huge job thanks to all the sanding and masking around tons and tons of hardware.  It turned out wonderfully:

The new paint is spotless and shiny.  I’m really happy with it.  I ended up asking them to paint everything white, including the nonskid areas.  The nonskid was done by sprinkling on fine-grained filtered sand and then overcoating, and it’s perfect: much less slick than the old nonskid but not so coarse as to be uncomfortable.  Here’s a closeup, though it’s still hard to see the nonskid in a photo:

They also painted some peripheral hardware like the steering pedestal and the anchor windlass housing:

With all the nice new paint I’ve asked the yard to throw a few tarps over the deck to minimize the UV damage while the boat is laid up.

The dodger modifications were also mostly finished.  There’s now a roof covering about 1/4 to 1/3 of the cockpit, and it’s much better engineered than the last one — curved to keep water from pooling and add strength, and with a nice lip to hang on to and direct water runoff.  The little “tank windows” are now gone and replaced with some nice big openings that offer a great field of view without craning my neck:

The glass isn’t installed yet as the paint needs to cure for a week or so before any sealant is applied.  The glass is cut though, from some polycarbonate I had left after making the other dodger windows.  Here’s a view of the cockpit from aft:

The yard also nicely faired the cockpit coaming where the old roof supports were:

The carpenter used my teak to build a nice, finger jointed box that mounts around the pedestal guard.  I traced a cutout on the box for flush mounting the chartplotter.  Once that’s cut, and the edges are rounded and some varnish is applied, this longstanding job will finally be done.

Here’s a random photo of the new solar panels Charlene asked me to take.  They’re doing their job well so far.

I met with Barry and Wendy and Rob, canvas makers, to discuss the bimini.  There had been some confusion about how to engineer a frame so that a bimini top with side and aft flaps could be mounted.  We ended up deciding to add a removable crossbar on the solar panel frame, and some tensioned cables between the solar panel frame and the new dodger roof.  The bimini top will mount to the cables on each side, to the dodger roof in front, and to the crossbar behind; and that layout matches the cockpit coaming pretty closely so flaps can be deployed as necessary.

Wendy and Rob also brought by some nice new Sunbrella covers they’d made for my outboard and my LPG tanks; I left the old ones on in the meantime though.

Down below, the only real job that got finished was installing tank gauge senders in the stainless water tanks:

I haven’t gotten around to wiring up and calibrating the water and fuel tank senders yet but it should be an easy job.

Barry also fabricated a new SS boarding ladder for me, using a CAD drawing I gave him.  The current ladder is telescoping and only has three rungs — it’s really, really hard to get out of the water.  The new ladder is folding but will use the same mounting brackets as the old ladder, and it has seven rungs — luxurious!  They are going to try to use some more of my teak to add steps, since climbing up metal pipes is not very comfortable.  Here’s the ladder folded:

And here it is opened up:

Most of what I spent my time on while I was there was just getting everything organized and clean — after all the jobs done in the last few months, particularly those in the cabin, everything was a real mess.  I spent two days scrubbing and dusting in the cabin.  Of course I also had to pack some stuff to bring back to NYC:

Luckily the scale at the airport check-in counter was broken.

I stayed on the boat in the yard instead of getting a hotel.  It’s a lot easier to live on the boat now that most of the in-cabin work is all done.  My favorite thing about staying in the yard, though, is this awesome shower they have:

It may look ugly, but there is nothing as refreshing after a long hot day as taking a cool rain shower, with great water pressure, under the stars and the moon.  Usually you’re also accompanied by a few frogs who like to hang out around the shower, which I think is great.

I happened to get a quick ride one day from Barry’s son Ryan and found out what happened to the SS chain they used to lift my new engine:

He welded it together.  Pretty unique idea!

I also managed to squeeze in just a little bit of relaxing.  A nice dinner and drink on the beach in Cenang:

And one last evening watching the sun set and relaxing in the shiny new cockpit:

Just behind Oia is a salty old dude on a beast of a boat, called Mara, from Juneau, Alaska.  Thought I’d take a photo of the boat because it’s just so awesome, in a cluttered, beat up, but totally functional kind of way:

But the best boat in the yard, of course, is Oia!  Here she is looking grand:

Now it’s off to the airport to fly to Manhattan.  I’m sure there will be plenty more boat updates here, but in the meantime maybe we’ll have some slightly more urban adventures to write about as well.


Filed under deck, electrical, general, maintenance, photos, planning

Langkawi GPS track

Thanks to a simple script written by someone else having the same GPS data exporting problems as I with their Lowrance HDS chartplotter, I was able to extract all the GPS data from the trip up to Langkawi.  I have no idea how the guy got the USR4 file format info from Lowrance; I asked for the same thing multiple times and was ignored.  But now that it’s documented in his code I may try my hand at adding support for USR4 to gpsbabel (probably read-only).

In the meantime I updated my map of Oia‘s travels with the Langkawi tracks.  The trip was right around 540 nm over about eight and a half days, for an average SOG of about 2.6 kts.  Not very fast.

View Larger Map

There’s a bigger and easier to navigate version here.


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Quick trip to the boatyard

A week ago I took a quick trip up to Langkawi for a few days to see how things were coming along in the boatyard and do a little work of my own there.

The first thing I noticed was the beautiful new topsides paint, which is polished to perfection.  It’s a tiny bit darker than the old paint.

I spent most of my weekend finishing up all the chartplotter wiring and mounting of the new pedestal guard.  It’s now just awaiting a teak enclosure from the carpenter in which the chartplotter will be mounted.

I did some more debugging of the NDC-4 NMEA multiplexer which had stopped working enroute to Langkawi, and found it was just due to a loose power wire amid the tangle of wires in the nav electronics area, which I’ve been meaning to clean up but haven’t yet.  So that’s fixed.  I also ran a cable for an Icom HM-157 remote mic which will go in the cockpit; I’m going to pick up an M-422 DSC radio to replace my ancient non-DSC one.

While I was away the yard had gotten a bunch of other stuff done.  They installed some coaming boxes for me in the cockpit coaming:

The rudder was (mostly) dropped out to clean up calcification on the rudder stock and replace the bearings, which were pretty worn.  Unfortunately the rudder couldn’t quite come all the way out without another lift.

The old cutless bearing, where the prop exits the hull, was removed for replacement.  The old bearing had a bronze housing so it was pretty hard to get out; the new one will have a fiberglass housing and nice vulcanized rubber.

In the cabin, the carpenter did a great job of cutting two new small hatches in the cabin sole for access to the tops of the two fuel tanks.  Aside from the new varnish, you’d never know they weren’t always there:

Beneath those, they’d drilled into the powdered steel tanks and screwed and sealed on the BEP TS1 ultrasonic tank senders:

I started working on running the wiring for the fuel tank senders — a tricky job that involved a long flexible pickup tool, some fishing line, and a lot of patience, since there is no easy access except to the tops of the tanks.  Ran out of time (and wire) to fully finish the job, and I’ll still need some more time to calibrate the senders as well.

Up above, the yard had mostly finished sanding the deck in preparation for painting:

While they were at it they sanded the teak handrails; I asked them to go ahead and sand and varnish all the brightwork — which is really just the handrails and the gunnel cap rails.  If all the rest of the boat’s exterior is going to look shiny and new, might as well do up the teak too.

They even sanded some of the chipped paint off the windlass; it’ll get a new coat or two:

While I was there the carpenter was getting started (and mostly finished) with finishing off the dodger, which was left rough after the old roof was cut off.  We ended up deciding to keep the panel with the little “tank windows” — which will be cut much larger and replaced with nice big panes of polycarbonate, since I have lots of that sitting around.  Above that, a small segment of roof will be extended back a couple of feet to protect the helm.  The carpenter made some nice curved support for the roof, and put on a lip at my request to keep out water and give me something to grab.  They also gave the whole thing a nice curve (the support in the center is temporary, obviously):

Here’s a view from the side from down below:

By now the whole thing should probably be glassed over.  They still need to make a folding bimini frame; a cloth bimini will extend above the hard roof and provide nice cover for the whole cockpit.  The canvas maker will be making some flaps so the whole cockpit can still be enclosed as before, which is probably going to be necessary in colder climates.

The real highlight of my short visit was the engine.  It’s now all installed, aligned, and ready to go aside from one or two remaining small tasks.  Pete cleaned everything up nicely and put the galley back together.  Here’s the new engine:

The big remaining issue is installing a waterlock box in the exhaust outlet hose (which is the big black hose in the above photo).  It’s surprising there wasn’t one there before.  The space constraints are tight, and it doesn’t look like an off-the-shelf box is going to fit, so I asked Barry to make one from fiberglass, which he agreed was the best approach.

The shiny new dual Racor fuel filter setup is a lot simpler and cleaner than the old custom dual filter contraption.  The only downside is there is now no electric fuel lift pump.  I may install one eventually, but it’s not a big deal for now.

Here’s the new engine from the front:

Pete cleaned up the engine plumbing pretty nicely.  There is still a bit of a mess related to the watermaker plumbing, but that will get cleaned up as I work on re-commissioning the watermaker.  An old through-hull that was used for a no-longer-functioning speed log is being repurposed as watermaker and domestic saltwater intake.

Pete came by the yard for a little while to go over the install with me.  Nothing too complicated to see as the engine is pretty straightforward.  We stuck a garden hose in the raw water strainer and ran the engine.  It started instantly, sounded really smooth, throttled up effortlessly, and stopped instantly thanks to the nice “stop” button on the new instrument panel.  I wish I’d had my video camera handy.  The throttle lever is on the engine is reverse that of the old engine, and flipping that around at the steering pedestal side is the only other real remaining engine related task.

Not sure when I’ll get back to Langkawi again — probably not until after Christmas — but in the meantime the yard’s got a lot to go on.


Filed under deck, electrical, electronics, hull, maintenance, mechanical, photos, plumbing

Living aboard a boat in Singapore — Part 2: Getting started

A while back I wrote some thoughts about why you might want to live aboard a boat in Singapore.  I continue to get a lot of questions from people who are partly or wholly convinced, and now want to know how.  So here is some of what I have to say about the mechanics of getting a boat, bringing it to Singapore, and living aboard.

As always, what I have to say reflects only my own experiences.  If you are thinking of living aboard in Singapore, the route you take to make it happen will undoubtedly be shaped by your own preferences and plans and will end up looking a lot different than mine.  Here are some of my basic assumptions:

  • You’re not rich; if you are, you can buy your way out of most of the complications of getting a boat and living aboard and this isn’t a very interesting article.
  • You’re probably going to be maintaining your boat yourself, at least some of the time.
  • You need to live someplace convenient enough to go to work.

And of course, if you have more specific questions I haven’t addressed, feel free to email me at beevek at gmail dot com and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Buying a boat

If you’ve decided living aboard in Singapore is for you — or if you’re just thinking about it sort of seriously — then step one is the big one: finding a boat that’s right for you.  I am not going to go into all the details of picking the right boat for your lifestyle and budget and sailing plans and all that.  There are probably a zillion other discussions of the same thing out there.  Same goes for understanding what to look for when you’re inspecting boats.  But if you’re in Singapore and want to do some boat shopping, there are some special local considerations.

The first and most obvious is: where can you buy a boat?  Singapore itself is not a great market unless you’ve got loads of money and are looking for a brand new boat.  There are occasionally used boats for sale here that are in good shape (I’ve looked at some) but they are fairly rare.  Instead, I recommend taking trips up to Phuket and Langkawi, both cruising havens with lots of live-aboard-ready boats (mainly sailboats) for sale.  The strategy that worked for me was to shop around online with some of the various brokers in the region (start with Pippen Marine, Lee Marine, YBC, Boatshed Phuket, and Simpson Marine); come up with some candidate boats to look at; and schedule long weekend visits to Phuket and Langkawi.  Flights are cheapest — and selection is probably highest — just after the NE monsoon high season is over.  Arrange ahead of time with the brokers and they’ll be able to show you the boats you’re interested in and maybe recommend some others.

Your budget will largely determine the kind of boat you can end up with.  Here are some rough guesses as to what you can get for how much (as of around now, end of 2011).  That said, take them with a grain of salt and do your own research.

  • US$10-50k: You probably can find boats in this price range that are suitable for living aboard, but almost certainly they will need some work (especially at the lower end of the range).  If you’re interested in buying an older boat in need of some love and fixing it up yourself (or having it fixed up), you may find it useful to take some trips to boatyards.  They tend to be full of neglected boats that can be had for (relatively) cheap.
  • US$50-100k: This was the sweet spot I was trying to hit when I was shopping a couple years ago.  There are quite a few boats in this price range, usually between 35-45 ft, but you will need to shop carefully and make sure the boat’s worth what it’s being sold for.  You can probably get a sail-away ready to go boat in this price range, but you’ll probably also want to make some changes or upgrades.
  • US$100-300k: If you want a newer boat — say, something built in the last decade that’s in good condition — this is probably what you’ll be paying.  The same for somewhat older boats that have been very well taken care of.  My recommendation is to prefer the latter: a 20+ year old well appointed and maintained cruising boat is probably a lot sturdier and has had all the kinks worked out; newer boats may be shinier and roomier but they also tend to be made out of balsa wood.  Literally.  Anyway, that’s just my personal preference.

Remember when you’re shopping that you’re going to be living aboard in Singapore.  Certain equipment already aboard can be useful.  A marine air conditioner is a big plus.  You will need air conditioning.  You’ll probably find a window air conditioner in a hatch is the most common solution.  An AIS transponder is also useful, since you’ll be required to have one in Singapore waters.  Best to have any AC equipment ready to use 230V at 50Hz.  If you’ll be cooking aboard a lot, make sure you have electrical refrigeration instead of an engine-driven compressor so you can keep your fridge running at the dock without running the engine all the time.  A chartplotter and SE Asia charts are nice to have.  But don’t eliminate a boat from consideration if it’s missing those things — few boats will have them all, and you can always make changes and additions.

Once you’ve found the right boat, you’ll work with your broker to close the deal.  My recommendation — at least if you’re not Singaporean — is not to expect to find financing.  Pay cash.  That probably applies the same for Singaporeans if you’re buying your boat in Malaysia or Thailand.

Make sure you get a survey from an accredited marine surveyor.  Your broker can probably make recommendations.  I bought my boat in Phuket and had my survey done by Jeroen from Waterline Marine.  He did a great job, wrote a really thorough report that I still use as a reference today, and saved me US$5k by finding some issues I’d overlooked.  That’s the best reason to get a survey; but the other reason is that your insurer will require it anyway.  You’ll need to book your surveyor in advance and be flexible.  There aren’t many of them in Phuket and Langkawi so they’re busy guys.  Try to be there for the survey so your surveyor can show you what they find and talk to you about the boat.  Take a lot of photos while the boat’s out of the water, since if it’s a sail-away purchase you may not haul out again for a while, and understanding the lines of the boat below the waterline is useful.

Once you’ve bought your boat you’ll need to choose a port of registry and get insurance lined up.  Your broker probably has recommendations.  I registered my boat in Langkawi since it seemed easy and relatively inexpensive (and was both, despite some annoyances).  Many people choose other ports of convenience.  If you’re planning to have the boat in Singapore for a really long time, you may want to consider registering it as a Singaporean vessel, but be prepared to pay GST on the value of the boat, and deal with all the paperwork.  A foreign flagged vessel can stay in Singapore without issue; there are lots of technicalities and you may want to discuss them with MPA — but honestly, as long as you follow the port clearance and immigration procedures reasonably well, I think adhering strictly to every last regulation is not a concern.

If you’ve bought a boat outside of Singapore and are ready to bring it back, well, it’s a boat, so you should sail it here.  If you bought your boat in Phuket or Langkawi, you’ll be coming via the Straits of Malacca.  Don’t do the trip by yourself or with friends and family, on a boat you’re unfamiliar with, unless you’re an experienced sailor.  It’s one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and is also fraught with all sorts of other annoyances: poorly marked fishing nets, trawlers, sleeping tugboat captains towing huge unlit barges, sometimes-dramatic tidal currents, and fast-moving squalls.  If you ask around at marinas in Singapore or wherever your boat is, you can find an experienced delivery captain who will be happy to help you with the trip.

Where to keep your boat

Another huge consideration is where you should keep your boat once you’ve got it.  There are a number of marinas in Singapore.  Location will probably be your biggest factor, but availability is coming into play now too, as some marinas are quite full.  As far as I know, there is no place in Singapore waters where you can reasonably stay at a swing mooring or at anchor for long.  With all marinas, I recommend calling ahead and/or visiting them to check on berth availability and see whether the marina is for you.  I don’t know of any marinas in Singapore that would have a real problem with you living aboard, regardless of whatever policies they may have.

Most of my experience is with One 15 Marina in Sentosa as that’s where I’ve kept Oia.  There is a new dock at this marina, but it’s filling up fast.  When I sailed off for Malaysia in late October, there was a pretty reasonable liveaboard population at One 15.  My personal opinion is that it’s the best place to live aboard in Singapore: it’s away from the city and quiet, but it’s still fairly convenient to downtown.  There is an employee bus that you can take half-hourly through most of the day that brings you right to the Harbourfront MRT.  Entry by taxi or car is an annoyance: you’ll usually have to pay the Sentosa entry fee (between S$2-7 depending on day and time).  Sometimes you can argue your way out of it.  You need not be a member to keep your boat at One 15, and frankly I don’t think a membership is worth the exorbitant cost even though it reduces the berthing and fuel fees (marginally).  The finger pontoons are not the best (short and narrow), and the conditions can get a bit rolly, especially on the L/M dock where Oia was berthed.  The facilities are top-notch: great swimming pool, wonderful rain showers, and a few tasty (if expensive) restaurants.

Keppel Bay Marina is maybe even more conveniently located, but as far as I know there are no berths available.  I put myself on the waiting list there a year and a half ago and never heard a thing.  If you can somehow magically get a berth there, you’re in (long) walking distance to Harbourfront, surrounded by swanky apartments and restaurants, and probably have pretty darn nice facilities (though I haven’t really checked on that).

Raffles Marina is far from the city center — it’s about as far West as you can go in Singapore — but if you’re working out there or don’t mind a (really) long commute, it may be a great option.  It’s probably the favored marina in Singapore for cruising sailors.  It’s quiet and pleasant and as I recall has a bit more of a breeze than One 15, which can make things more livable.  It’s also very well protected.  Despite its location, Raffles costs about as much as One 15 and Keppel Bay.

RSYC seems like it’d be a great marina.  It’s where I was originally intending to keep Oia, until various mishaps resulted in our ending up at One 15 with a broken down engine.  It’s in a decently convenient location near Clementi; seems like more of a sailors’ marina; and as I recall is a bit less expensive.  But the one thing you will be consistently told by everyone who’s ever berthed there is that it’s rolly.  The ferry terminal generates wakes that will toss your boat around all day long.  For that reason it may not be the best place to live aboard.

There are a few other options, most notably SAF Changi and the Marina Country Club at Punggol, but they are both quite far East and NE, respectively, and I think much less frequented by the liveaboard crowd.

I’ve discussed berthing costs in the past; for a monohull somewhere around 38-45 ft you should be able to stay in one of the nicer marinas for something like S$850-1400/month including utilities.

Maintaining your boat

Singapore is not a do-it-yourself kind of place.  And when it is, the doing-it-yourself is mostly about houses or cars — rarely boats.  But it’s still a huge port, and it’s probably the best place in SE Asia to buy parts and equipment without having to order from overseas.  That said, it is also usually very, very expensive and many times I’ve found it’s cheaper to order and ship items from the US than to buy them here.  (As an aside: get a boat stamp made with the vessel’s name and registration details; if your vessel is foreign-flagged, you can use it to avoid paying GST on most  boat related purchases, and in any case most CIQP offices expect you to have it.)

I keep a list of vendors in Singapore that I’ve dealt with, usually including some notes about my experience with them.  Some are bad, others good, and a few really great to deal with.

At the top of that list are a few general-marine-service companies you can hire to do maintenance work on your boat.  I’ve gotten quite a few quotes for various jobs from them, but I’ve never once hired a marine contractor here to do anything serious on my boat because the costs in Singapore are just insane.  I once got a quote for S$5k+ to install fuel and water tank gauges in my boat.  I just got all the hard work for that job done in Malaysia for a couple hundred SGD.

For any major work, I think the best option is indeed to sail outside of Singapore.  There are a number of good boatyards in Malaysia and Thailand.  Parts and supplies are mostly a lot cheaper, and labor is much less expensive.  In my (limited) experience, workmanship is just as good.  For really critical stuff like repower jobs, canvas work, etc, ask around to find the best contractors (your broker from the boat purchase is probably a good place to start).

Sailing around Singapore

Singapore waters themselves are not so great for cruising around.  The port limit is only a few miles offshore, and if you’re planning to cross it you’ll need to do port clearance and immigration.  Within the port, there are hundreds upon hundreds of anchored cargo ships, tankers, and so on.  There are some good spots for day cruises, but not much beyond that.

Technically, you’re supposed to have a PPCDL to use your vessel within port limits.  I have never been able to figure out if that’s a requirement for foreign flagged vessels that are here for the long term.  MPA hasn’t given me the same answer twice.  The same is true of the cruising permits required for foreign flagged vessels — despite following all the right procedures, sometimes the marina staff I’ve worked with has said I’m not eligible for a cruising permit; and other times it’s granted without issue.  Most people I know just don’t bother.  But make sure you’re as up to date as you can be on what the rules and regulations are, since they seem to be fairly dynamic.

Port clearance is easy enough to do yourself: just go to the MPA OSDC office at Tanjong Pagar with a few copies of crew and passenger lists, general declaration forms, boat registration, etc.  Some marinas can do the clearance paperwork for you if you prefer.  Similarly, there are immigration facilities at some marinas, but normally I just do immigration at one of the two quarantine anchorages (Western near the Sister Islands, or Eastern near Changi, depending on the direction I’m sailing).

There are plenty of international destinations within reasonable range.  I’ve never made it to any of the Indonesian islands — they seem logistically kind of difficult — but both coasts of peninsular Malaysia are worth visiting.


Filed under advice, liveaboard

A couple weeks in the boatyard and around Langkawi

After a little over a week back in Singapore to rest and work after reaching Langkawi, I flew back up for a couple weeks to spend some time working on the boat.  It was really busy with lots of things underway and accomplished.  We took quite a few photos; here are some.

When I left for Singapore (in a hurry) the boat was on stands right next to the wharf.  It had since been Travelifted into the yard with all the other boats:

Here’s a partial overview of the boatyard — it’s packed pretty tight, with quite a number of steel boats (mostly European):

While I was in Singapore, the engineer, Pete — an Australian — had gotten right down to business with the repower job.  By the time I got back to the boat he’d already dismantled the old engine and moved it out into the cockpit, and started cleaning up the bilge.  First thing I saw when I climbed aboard in the yard:

Actually, just as I was arriving some of the yard workers were finishing cutting the old cockpit roof off and tossing it over the side.  That left things pretty open:

Barry, the South African who owns the yard, had left a little more material behind than I was originally intending.  I’d originally planned to scrap the panel with the two crappy little “tank windows” and just leave a small lip to keep out the rain.  He had some interesting alternative ideas and ran them by me.  The plan has now morphed to replacing the little tank windows with big slabs of polycarbonate (I’ve got lots) for maximum visibility; then extending the roof at the original height back a foot or two to protect the helm.  No extra support will be needed to do that.  Then he’ll make me a nice bimini frame to fold forward from my solar panel rack, at pretty much the same height as the hard roof.  I spoke to a canvas maker named Wendy who will be making the bimini top, along with some removable flaps similar in some ways to what I had before so the entire cockpit can be enclosed in colder climates.

It actually didn’t take long at all to get used to the missing roof.  I think it looks a lot better:

Inside the boat the bilge was empty and pretty ugly looking, and the galley was slightly dismantled to improve access:

The prop shaft was in pretty good shape:

The old engine, less so:

The first day there was mostly spent taking stock of the boat and the yard, and cleaning up some of the mess I left when I had rushed off.  I had a really crappy rental car, an old Proton, and stayed in a decent little hotel in Kuah — the boat was not in a very livable state.

The new engine was still in its shipping crate in the yard.  We opened it up and it was lovely:

The yard used a crane to lift the old engine out of the cockpit and the new engine into it.  Here’s the tired old 4-107 flying through the air and actually not looking too shabby.  One of the more prominent features on this specific engine is the custom-built aft engine mounts; you can see they had the transmission sitting well below the engine bearers.  In fact the installation was so tight the starter motor had been resting on the actual hull.  Pete pointed out that my gearbox failure en route to Langkawi was caused by a sheared part in the gearbox flange — nothing I could have dealt with (or even really diagnosed) at sea.

The shiny new Beta 38 traded places with the 4-107.  The most obvious physical difference between the two engines is the size of the gearbox.  The old Paragon P-220 was really long and narrow; the new TMC-60P is a lot shorter but a bit fatter.  This made the installation fairly difficult and in the end, the engine needed to rest forward a bit, and required a new prop shaft since the old one was too short.

Before we moved the Beta 38 down to the engine bed I had one of the yard workers (who are all much smaller guys than I) crawl down in the bilge and give it a thorough cleaning with paint thinner, bilge cleaner, etc.

Then I had him sand and lay on a couple coats of chemical and fuel resistant paint.  There was no bright white available so I opted for a light grey.  What a difference some new paint makes (here after most of the first coat):

The old engine was down on the ground and in semi-decent shape, aside from the gearbox, a newly broken fuel line, and a few other minor things:

Within a couple days one of the yard workers approached me and asked for a price for the engine; he wanted to fix it up and sell it for use in a fishing boat.  In the end I sold it to him for US$800 cash and he and some buddies loaded it up into a truck.  Ciao, 4-107: you were a good engine.

While Pete worked on the engine installation I tackled a zillion other tasks.

I dumped all my anchor chain out of the chain locker and measured it.  Turns out it was 90m with markings every 15m, not every 10m as I’d guessed, so all along I’ve been letting out way more chain than necessary.  I cleaned the chain and repainted all the markings:

I also put some cable ties on each marking to indicate length; these work pretty well and don’t interfere with (or break because of) the windlass:

On my way out the other day I did notice a few weak links in the chain; will probably have to remove them and join with some connecting links.

I also worked on putting together a nice plexiglass cover for the electrical panel.  One of the unanticipated side effects of relocating the switch panel to the front of the electrical cabinet has been that when you lean over to grab stuff from the top-loading fridge, you tend to bump into electrical switches.  Not so great when you inadvertently switch off the autopilot.  I glued up, filed, sanded, and varnished some nice teak standoffs, got a 4mm piece of acrylic cut, and installed it all with some nice SS hinges and a latch.  Works great.

One of the two remaining old hatches in the boat (both in the dodger) had been leaking.  The acrylic had come unsealed and unseated.  Doug had repaired the other dodger hatch, which had a similar issue, about a year ago.  I’m getting pretty good with sealant, so I was able to repair this one in about 10 minutes.  I realized in making the electrical panel cover that acrylic is really cheap, so maybe one of these days I’ll remove the (horribly crazed and mostly opaque) glass again from these two old hatches and put some new glass in.

I went back to Singapore for a couple days for work.  Luckily flights are cheap.

At the boatyard, Charlene conquered the precarious boarding ladder to come take a look at the new engine (which was dangling from a chain block in midair at the time):

She wasn’t quite as impressed with the state of the cabin:

And she waited patiently while I failed at repairing the bilge pump pressure switch.  That engine compartment is pretty tight:

During the weekend we moved from Kuah to a new hotel in Cenang Beach, which is a bit more touristy and hence has more stuff to do, and we took some time to do a little sightseeing around Langkawi together.  I’ve been back and forth to Langkawi a bunch of times, but I’ve always been busy with boat stuff, so it was nice to take some time to see the island.

I’d gotten a new rental car — a Perodua Myvi, which seems kind of like a pseudo-ripoff of the Mini Cooper but was actually quite nice — and within a few days we covered most of the roads in Langkawi.

One of my favorite things we did was go for a ride in the Langkawi cable car.  Langkawi is a very vertical island.  The cable car ascends the highest peak, Gunung Machincang, which rises to 2300 ft just a couple kilometers from the ocean.  There are great views all around of Langkawi, the Andaman Sea, and on a clear day, Thailand to the north.

Here’s my lovely fiancée atop Gunung Machincang:

From the peak we had a nice view of the anchorage outside Telaga Harbour, the marina where I first took possession of Oia.  It’s pretty full — peak season in Langkawi and Phuket is underway.

Here I am enjoying the view from the cable car:

There’s a precarious looking suspension bridge between a couple of the peaks, up in the clouds:

We enjoyed a refreshing beverage at the top of Gunung Machincang:

And then we marched across the bridge:

Back at sea level, we ran across a rabbit farm.  MYR 1 (US$0.31) to feed the rabbits was a no-brainer:

They seemed to like me kind of a lot:

Langkawi is pretty tropical.  There are a lot of coconut trees:

We watched a worker shimmy his way up to the top of one, no rope, occasionally hacking out a foothold with a machete, to harvest some coconuts.  North of Cenang, near the airport, we came across a quiet little beach with a few small laksa stands and locals lounging around.  The laksa was so-so — kind of fishy — but the setting sure was nice.

The little old lady running the laksa stand was really skillful in hacking apart a coconut for us with a heavy sharp knife — very instructive, and very tasty.

Langkawi is a duty free island and there are tons of duty free shops all over the place.  The big product categories: alcohol, kitchenware, and chocolate.

But instead of visiting the duty free shops, which are all the same, it’s a lot more fun to track down the daily night market, which is in a different spot on the island every night.  It’s mostly full of street food, really cheap and decently good.  You can put a pretty big meal together for about US$2-5.  On a rainy day, like the night we visited the market in Kedawang near Cenang, the market is kind of a sloppy, muddy affair — but still busy and fun.

Back at the boatyard, where half our time was still being spent, lots of stuff was underway.  The yard began preparing the topsides, filleting out scratches for fairing, and sanding the paint to prepare for overcoating.

Once that was done, the next step was some fairing, then masking and spraying on some epoxy primer.

The guys spent a day or two wet sanding the epoxy to a smooth finish.  On our way out Sunday, they were in the middle of spraying on three coats of topcoat.  I went with CMP, a Japanese brand, for all the paint and epoxy for this refit.  It’s at least as good as International or Awlgrip (paint) and West System (epoxies), and has a great reputation, but is quite a bit cheaper since it’s sold mainly to the shipping industry rather than to the yachting crowd.

Barry just sent me a couple photos today of the finished and polished topsides, which look great:

The next big paint job will be the deck, including some nice gritty nonskid; but first a bunch of glasswork needs to get done.  The antifouling is actually still in decent shape so we’ll do that last, cleaning up the surface and then just painting on one or two new coats.

While all that was going on I was working on some smaller tasks.  I removed all the old solar panels and got a welder to grind off some of the mounting tabs and re-weld them to fit the new panels; then got the new panels all wired up.  They’re working well so far.

I also dismantled the old pedestal guard, drilled and epoxy-sealed a through-deck hole to run wiring, and mounted the new pedestal guard I’d had fabricated in Singapore.  Forgot to get a photo of that.  The hardest part of the job was running all the chartplotter wiring — mostly data cables with fat connectors, so I had to cut the cables, run them through, and re-solder all the conductors.  I still have one more to go — a VHF remote mic I just picked up in Singapore — before I can reseal and bolt down the pedestal guard.

I handed off all my teak to the yard’s carpenter, who is pretty well equipped and will make a nice finger-jointed enclosure for the chartplotter.  I was struggling to make any progress on that myself.  Some of the rest of the teak will go toward steps on a new folding boarding ladder.

I took stock of my deck level nav lights, which are really power hungry, to see if I could convert them to LEDs like I did with the anchor and tricolor lights.  I found the fittings — from Peters+Bey — were in pretty bad shape, so I’ll probably just replace them with all-new LED lights.

I also brought the outboard to the local Mercury shop for general servicing.  That entailed a fun drive out to a little kampung well away from town.  Turns out I had been right in my fuel leak diagnosis originally: the fuel tank was cracked and leaking.  They ordered a new one for me and now the outboard’s in good shape.

I spent an hour or two with my head in the chain locker.  Since the chain was out it seemed like a good opportunity to clean up, and I scooped out a bunch of dried up mud.  I also better cable-tied some of the windlass wiring.  One of the projects I had been pondering was installing a strong point in the chain locker for the bitter end of the anchor rode.  Right now, there’s a length of nylon bent on to the end of the rode, and spliced around a chunk of teak, which acts as a shock absorber and stopper to keep the bitter end from running out.  The teak and nylon were actually in better shape than I remembered and don’t need replacement.  Since this is generally accepted as a kosher way to secure the bitter end, and I don’t have anywhere except a bulkhead that goes through to the V-berth (right where my head usually rests when I’m sleeping there) to attach a strong point, I think I’m going to stick with it for now.

Meanwhile, Pete got the new engine down in the engine bed and started fitting it to the bearers.

After some tweaking he ended up fabricating some new mounts in his shop.  He gave them to me to paint fire-engine red with some Hammerite:

As I mentioned before, the new gearbox was a lot shorter than the old one and there was no good way to place the engine such that the old prop shaft was long enough.  C’est la vie.  Pete had a new one machined, almost exactly the same as the old one but 6 or 7 inches longer:

The prop also needed to be changed since my old engine was left-handed and the new engine is right-handed in ahead.  Turns out Pete had an almost exact mirror of my old 3-bladed fixed pitch manganese bronze prop in his shop; he had a machine shop remove a bit of material to reduce the diameter and pitch a little per my prop calculations, and cleaned it up — looks pretty nice.

I heard from Pete the other day that the engine installation is now all but finished: just a couple more minor tasks like tweaking the shift and throttle cables, replacing the cutless bearing, etc.  He powered up the engine for the first time and it ran smoothly.  The one remaining question is whether we can install a waterlock box, which protects the engine from flooding through the exhaust.  For some strange reason there is not currently one in the exhaust system.  The space constraints make installing one a little hard but we may be able to custom-make something.

Before we left for Singapore I went over a bunch of other random jobs with Barry so he can proceed with them over the next couple weeks.  There are a couple big ones, especially some fiberglassing and fairing around the cockpit, re-working the dodger, building the bimini, and painting the deck.  And there are a lot of small jobs: replacing a through-hull for the watermaker intake, moving the anti-siphon outlet to a more sane spot, cutting holes in the water and fuel tanks to install senders for gauges, dropping out the rudder to replace the bearings, etc.

I’m planning to head back to Langkawi for a few days in another couple of weeks to do some work and check up on things.  So far though, it’s all looking great.


Filed under deck, electrical, electronics, hull, maintenance, mechanical, photos, planning, plumbing, shopping, trips